SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Lashon Hara 4:5-6
Shlomo HaMelech said: “Do not criticize a scoffer, lest he hate you.” A leitz (scoffer) is a person who ridicules things that should be taken seriously. Our Sages refer to Pharaoh as a leitz because no matter how many times Hashem brought devastating, miraculous punishment upon him and his land, he refused to obey Moshe Rabbeinu’s command (in Hashem’s Name) that he allow the Jews to leave Egypt.
Scoffing brought about Egypt’s destruction, and it can destroy a Jew’s life as well. When a person who is criticized with sincerity and respect reacts by ridiculing what was said, there is little hope that he will change his ways.
A renowned baal teshuvah of our generation related: “At a point in my life when I was not interested in living a life of Torah, I was sitting at a simchah (celebration) having a good time with some of my irreligious friends. A distinguished rav was at this gathering and we began to converse with him. At one point he said to us, ‘I can prove to you that the Torah is true.’
“With my chutzpah, I retorted, ‘Do you know what the word “prove” means?’
“He did not become angry. Instead, he wisely replied, ‘Yes, I know what the word “prove” means, and I am prepared to make good on my claim. But I will not do it here. If you want to hear my proofs, you can come to my home and meet with me privately.’”
That rav understood that he was surrounded by a group of scoffers and that no matter how convincing his proofs might be, there was likely to be someone who would ridicule his words and destroy any chance that someone in the group might be inspired to change his ways.
The baal teshuvah continued, “I was the only one who took the rav up on his offer. I visited him in his home, and by the time the evening was over, I was convinced of the truth of Torah.”
We learned previously that if we witness someone committing a sin, even a serious sin that everyone knows is forbidden, we should not inform anyone, even the person’s rav. Rather, we should speak to the person in private in the hope of ensuring that he will not repeat his action.
However, this does not apply when the person is a scoffer and will very possibly shrug off or ridicule our words. In this case, two Jews who have both witnessed his misbehavior can report it to a local beis din, for there is a greater chance that such a person will listen to the words of respected rabbanim than the words of a neighbor or acquaintance. It is necessary that two people witness the act, because the testimony of a lone witness is not accepted in a Jewish court.
The Chofetz Chaim says that the information may also be told even by a lone witness to a relative of the sinner if there is a reasonable possibility that he will be receptive to this relative’s criticism; or to a rav outside of beis din, assuming that the rav can approach the sinner in private and possibly influence him to mend his ways.
IN A NUTSHELL
When we have witnessed someone sin who will not accept our rebuke, we may be permitted to tell others to whom he might listen.
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